We’re here to help. An informal poll of readers turned up the usual suspects: Rue Franklin, Ristorante Lombardo, Oliver’s, Trattoria Aroma, Tabree, San Marco, Bacchus. If noisy still works for you, there’s Hutch’s, Left Bank, Tempo, Mother’s. The Roycroft Inn for crafty types, and if you love a good tune, E.B. Green’s with Jackie Jocko singing romantic standards at the grand piano.
These places might already be booked at peak times, for good reasons. If you don’t make a lot of dinner reservations that might be news to you. So we have a few more suggestions, based on readers’ nominations, for people who need help – by which we mean men.
425 Center St., Lewiston (754-2311, www.carmelos- restaurant.com)
This restaurant gets overlooked by many Buffalonians who can’t imagine driving to Niagara Falls for dinner, much less Lewiston. Chef-owner Carmelo Raimondi offers subtly creative Italian-inspired dishes that draw on local pork and produce in a deftly decorated farmhouselike setting. House-cured salumi is just the first handmade touch. The exposed beams in the dining room say rustic, but the atmosphere and service make a sophisticated setting for a meal to remember, from cocktails to dessert.
3260 Main St. (837-2326, www.shangobistro.com)
Shango is in University Heights surrounded by places catering to the hunger and thirst of college students. Its laid-back Cajun-centric menu is definitely for adults, though, with an extensive wine list. Despite all the pork chops and cream, Chef Jim Guarino makes a point of satisfying vegans, too, if they mention their desire when making the reservation. The hardest table to get might be the two-top in a nook off the main dining room, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Asa Ransom House
10529 Main St., Clarence (759-2315, www.asaransom.com)
The quaint surroundings of the Asa Ransom House tend to strike a chord with ladies who like tea parties, and the bed-and-breakfast surroundings might bring an Agatha Christie mystery to mind. But with decent food at reasonable prices in pleasant surroundings, it’s no mystery why the place still draws after decades. It’s a special occasion place for dinner, readers said, and the staff treats you that way.
Red Coach Inn
2 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls (282-1459, www.redcoach.com)
From the outside, the Red Coach Inn seems out of place, a chalet that got lost and found itself overlooking the mighty Niagara rapids. Inside are surprisingly cushy old-school surroundings as befitting a fine restaurant modeled after an English inn when it was built nearly a century ago. Menu of Continental standards holds few surprises and won’t break the bank. Readers specifically praised its adept servers and elegant decor as one of the best romantic bets in Niagara Falls.
Elm Street Bakery
72 Elm St, East Aurora (652-4720, www.elmstreetbakery.com)
If you have no reservations, do not despair. Consider the self-serve Valentine’s Day offered by Elm Street Bakery. In a wood-lined room wrapped around a massive woodburning oven, you get a candlelit table, an excellent wood-fired pizza, two glasses of wine or beer, a salad and two desserts, for $32.95. Cons: You have to get your food from a counter. Pros: A wandering accordionist playing French café music means you can share a slice of pizza and have a “Lady and the Tramp” moment, mozzarella style.
More suggestions from across the map
La Tee Da
206 Allen St.
971 E. River Road, Grand Island
490 Center St., Lewiston
Russell’s Steaks and Chops
6675 Transit Road, Williamsville
Salvatore’s Italian Gardens
6461 Transit Road, Depew
7740 Transit Road, Amherst
938 Kenmore Ave.
800 Maple Road, Williamsville
930 Maple Road, Amherst
Black & Blue Steak & Crab
5493 Sheridan Drive, Amherst